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Good Rockin' Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock 'N' Roll Paperback – July 15, 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The authors, freelance writers, build a credible case for their assertion that the Sun studio was the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. Sun's founder, Sam Phillips, was the first to record artists who blended country music with rhythm and blues (R & B), creating the "rockabilly" sound that set the direction rock 'n' roll has taken to the present day. Sun, a Memphis, Tenn.-based label formed in 1952, never attained the level of success of the major record companies. But Phillips, a former disc jockey who broke into the record industry by recording R & B artists such as Howlin' Wolf and Joe Louis Hill, remains a seminal, almost legendary figure in modern music history, having discovered Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and a host of lesser-known performers who have influenced recording artists of the past 40 years. Well-written and well-researched, the book is a worthy addition to the growing literature of rock 'n' roll. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This culmination of a work in progress since 1971 follows the authors' earlier Catalyst: The Sun Records Story ( 1975) and Sun Records: The Brief History of the Legendary Record Label ( LJ 2/15/81) as their most detailed and critically astute evaluation of the seminal Sun Records and its founder and creative genius Sam Phillips. The developments of Sun and the nascent rock 'n' roll phenomenon in the early 1950s are inextricably entwined through Phillips's recordings of Howlin' Wolf, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis, all of whom began their careers at Sun. In explicating the "Sun sound," Escott and Hawkins also document Phillips's mistakes, flaws, and failures. The stories individually are wonderful, and collectively they form a lush composition of a significant slice of rock 'n' roll history. Numerous pictures, newspaper clippings, and other scrapbook paraphernalia complement the text, along with a Sun Records discography. For all libraries with even a passing interest in the history of popular music. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/90.
- Barry Miller, Austin P.L., Tex.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st pbk. ed edition (July 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312081995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312081997
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Have you heard the news? Good Rockin' Tonight is the encyclopedia for all fans of Sam C. Phillips' groundbreaking Memphis Recording Service and Sun/Phillips International labels. Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins, whose expert commentaries appear in the liner notes of many Sun CD reissue packages, deliver thorough accounts of the players and events in the Sun story. Full chapters are devoted to Sun's best-known players (Sam Phillips, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley) and the landmark events (the recording of Rocket 88, the arrival of Howlin' Wolf, and the birth of Rockabilly), but the real highlight is the attention to the lesser-known players like Joe Hill Louis, Scotty Moore, Sonny Burgess, Billy Riley, and Roland Janes. They didn't top the charts, but were as important to the creation of the "Sun Sound" as Perkins, Lewis, Cash and Presley were to its export outside the Memphis city limits, and in Good Rockin' Tonight they receive the recognition they deserve. Escott and Hawkins round out the Sun story with a complete discography of all the Sun and Phillips International singles, EPs and LPs released while both labels were active.
Sun was the first powerhouse independent record label of Rock & Roll music. It's catalogue, performed by rough-edged musicians who turned out consistently innovative material and a Top Ten hit here and there, has been exhaustively reissued over the past ten years, much to the delight of Sun connoisseurs. Sadly, the same can't be said of material written about Sun: most of the books (several also written by Escott and Hawkins) are now out of print. Good Rockin' Tonight stands alone as the most comprehensive work dedicated to Sam Phillips and the record label whose influence on popular culture deserves much more.
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Format: Paperback
Growing up in the mid-1950s, I became an aficianado of the Sun sound.

The first Sun record I owned was "Mystery Train" by Little Junior's Blue Flames, purchased for 10 cents at Kresge's. It remains one of my favorite Sun records (though, alas, I no longer own the 45 I bought way back then).

I then bought everything I could find on Sun, even a few Elvis 45s (which also have disappeared into the snows of time), Warren Smith, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Billy Riley, Johnny Cash, Sonny Burgess, and etc.

This book was the best account to its date of publication of Sun. Since then a lot more information has come out, particularly in the notes and booklets in the glorious collections of Sun sides released by Bear Family. All Sun fanatics eagerly await Peter Guralnick's upcoming bio of Sam Phillips, the genius who created the Sun sound.

Phillips is never given his due. He wasn't a musician, but he had an uncanny feeling for "sound", the word he used constantly. Elvis' Sun sides are his greatest recordings, but Elvis is only part of the phenomenon: Scotty Moore's guitar and Phillips' recording technique are equally important. When "That's All Right" was released, even professional promoters and DJs didn't realize that there were only three instruments on the recording, most famously Jim Denny of the Grand Ole Opry who complained that he'd contracted for the whole band when Elvis, Scotty, and Bill turned up for their Opry appearance.

Phillips convinced Junior Parker to forget his saxophone driven urban style and go with his John Lee Hooker-inspired boogie, thereby creating the first big seller on Sun that was also a quality recording ("Feeling Good").
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A detailed and informative account of Sam Philips and the Rise & Fall of Sun Records. The focus is limited to their time at Sun Records, with some discussion of their Sun Records career, and so those seeking a full history of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and others will have to look elsewhere. Many of the artists discussed are unfamiliar to me, but there's enough about them to warrant further exploration.
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The book is mostly well written. The author does a good job of providing insight in to the person of Sam Phillips; his passion for relatively unappreciated grass roots talent, as well as his drive to discover the illusive “new sound” that would be the next “big hit”. He had a much more personal approach to running his tiny record company, creating a virtual incubator for innovation. This enabled him to capture the sounds that made Sun a legend in a field dominated by the contrivances of mainstream corporations with deep pockets, but narrow perspectives.

At times the timeline gets confusing as the author structured the book in a way that compartmentalizes the story into chapters about specific artists. I also found what appeared to be some minor typeset and grammatical errors.

The reason for my 4 stars was because this book was a blast read; mainly because I had such a good time using YouTube and Wikipedia to track down some of the original recordings and artists that were featured in the book. Using modern online resources provided the perfect background to the Sun story. I even discovered a new appreciation for some vintage artists that I hadn’t even heard of before such as Joe Hill Louis. I also discovered some more modern recordings that are available on CD such as the 1986 recording of “Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session” with Carl Perkins backed up by Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Thus, the real value of this book is in the fun you can have in rediscovering the wonderful texture of a bygone era, and the start of a musical revolution.
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